Beachcombers beware, pretty mementos picked up on the beach may not make it home
Many people have reported shells, rocks, pebbles, driftwood and even beach glass (which is – when you think about it – actually garbage) being confiscated from carry on luggage by Costa Rican airport security.
It is prohibited to remove anything from inside national parks or wildlife refuges, but we’ve asked around and can’t pin down any official policy or regulation from the department of the interior or ministry of natural resources about other public beaches.
Enforcement is extremely sporadic and the exact same shells and sticks are apparently okay as long as someone else collected them and sold them to you. If they have a string added to make a necklace or are glued to a bowl as a decoration they can not only be carried on to flights but can be sold in souvenir shops right in the airport.
It’s possible there’s an official regulation and maybe for good reason. At the Great Sand Dunes National Monument in southern Colorado they have signs up asking visitors to please empty the sand out of their shoes and pockets before departing to keep the dunes intact. There are problems with building developers illegally mining rocks, sand and gravel from Costa Rica’s beaches and rivers leaving them susceptible to erosion and I suppose if enough tourists picked up a rock eventually it would be a truckload.
Tips to Get Your Seashells Home
One possibility is to get out the craft supplies and turn that smooth rock into a souvenir by gluing some beach glass flippers and scallop shell eyes to it.
Another way to ensure your souvenirs make the trip is to put them in your checked bags.
Every confiscation reported has been from from carry on and every checked treasure has made it through.
Of course we’re NOT talking about sea turtle shell souvenirs, agriculture or plant products or other illegal contraband from endangered species. A couple little mementos – innate objects only – rocks, sand, sea shells – and of course beach glass if you’re inclined to clean up some garbage.